Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

October 4, 2013

Three alleged Church of Wells members asked to leave Lufkin ISD campus

• Lufkin ISD public information officer describes incident as "peaceful."

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

LUFKIN —    Three men tentatively identified as members of the Church of Wells were issued criminal trespass warnings late Thursday afternoon and asked to leave the campus of Lufkin High School, authorities confirmed Friday.

The three also will be banned from all Lufkin ISD school properties as a result of this incident, said LISD spokeswoman Sheila Adams.

Adams described the entire Thursday afternoon incident as “very peaceful.”

“It was after school,” Adams said. “They came in to our parking lot and from what I understand one of our employees recognized them. From there, they were asked to leave and were going to —  but we went ahead and called the police to issue them trespassing warnings.

“From what I understand they were there for the purpose of proselytizing. They had their bibles with them and were addressing the students who were leaving.”

The church is often known to proselytize — or attempt to attract others to their faith. Church of Wells members travel to campuses such as Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches to proselytize.

However, members normally take legal measures to protect their presence on a campus. For instance, Church of Wells Elder Sean Morris has said parishioners enroll for one class on the SFA campus so they have the legal right to be there when they preach.

A Friday afternoon call to Morris was not immediately returned.

Adams emphasized several times that the entire incident on the Lufkin ISD campus was “peaceful” from start to finish.

The Lufkin ISD has its own police department that covers all its 15 campuses, but the Lufkin Police Department was asked to intervene in this matter, authorities said.

Lufkin Police Det. J.B. Smith, the department's public information officer said his department got the call shortly after 4:50 p.m. that these three men were approaching people outside the school.

“What they were or weren't saying to them, I don't know,” the lieutenant said.

Lufkin Police officials said they weren't 100 percent positive these were Church of Wells members, but said at least one local newspaper reporter identified them as such on the scene.

A criminal trespass warning, the lieutenant said, only means that a person has been informed by a property owner that he or she is not allowed to come back or re-enter a property.

The lieutenant said none of the men were arrested and won't be unless they return to the campus.

The men who were issued the criminal trespass warnings and asked to leave the Lufkin ISD campus, are Kevin Matthew Fessler, 25, whose Texas driver's license lists him as a Wells resident; Troy Dannenberger, around 47 or 48 years old and the writer of “How God Saved Me and Led Me to A Biblical Church” posted on the Church of Wells webpage, and Christopher Smith. Given the common nature of his name and a lack of available date of birth, personal information was not immediately available.

However, on the Church of Wells site a “Chris Smith” is the author of “How God Saved a Pharisee: The Testimony of Chris Smith 2012.”